A/N: Thank you everyone for reading this story until the end! Especially my loyal reviewers and everyone who made this a favourite or followed this story. Please consider writing a final review for Confession Confusion. I'd love to know what you thought of the story overall.

I do not own Fairy Tail.

Chapter Twenty Four - Happy

I traced the path of a raindrop as it slid down the window. Under my finger the glass was cool whilst beyond the haze of water the world looked washed out. Everything was gray and dull, the trees bent over, their stripped leaves forming wet mounds in the mud. The whole world seemed caught up in the depths of an autumn storm. I guess the weather had chosen to be suitably depressing to match the occasion.

"This car is worth more than you know. Don't mark the glass."

My hand dropped immediately back into my lap. I tried to sit still but my suit was itchy, the black tie like a noose around my neck. I tugged impatiently at it.


My name used as a warning, the slightest flash of eyes in the rear view mirror of the car. I sat on my hands. I'd already learned it wasn't worth it to antagonise my guardian. My parents would have understood. My mother would have chosen a raindrop to race mine down the glass. My father would have had his tie dangling loosely around his neck to be fixed into place moments before we left the car and then torn free as soon as we returned from the event. The radio would have been on, our car filled with a warmth that no storm could compete with. My parents would have... but they were not here.

I banished the thought. There'd been weeks when all I could do was cry for them. Dark days when I missed them chasing me around the park or the sound of their laughter in our kitchen. Lonely moments when I wished they were still here to tuck me in at night or help me with my homework. Then my guardian had decided enough was enough. "They're dead, boy. Your tears won't change that," he bellowed when he tired of my grief. I only cried in secret after that.

The car made a tight left turn onto a long, smooth drive overshadowed with evenly spaced oak trees. My stomach clenched into knots. This was the last place I wanted to be. A house once linked with sweet memories, now the focus of today's unfortunate event. A memorial service, six months on from the tragic accident that'd taken so many lives and left me an orphan. We emerged from the curtain of trees and the house came into view. With all the solid grey stonework and the tower looming on one corner the building was better described as a gothic mansion than a house but it had been home to me. Not anymore. Nothing would ever be as it was before.

We pulled up outside the grand oak doors and two men immediately emerged, bearing black umbrellas. I reached for the door handle but a sharp, disapproving cough from the front seat brought me up short. I sat back and waited for the door to be opened for me. It had never occurred to me while my parents were alive that I was any different from anyone else. My mother baked cookies and made my school lunches. My father went to work every day and tossed me in the air when he returned. I knew they went out to nice dinners and parties, all dressed up, diamonds twinkling from my mother's ears and pearls around her neck. I knew no one else at school spent weekends on a yacht or could describe their countryside home as a 'castle' and mean it literally. So what if every September my 'What I did for summer vacation' story was a bit more exciting than the other kids? Who cared? I didn't. As far as I was concerned we were a normal family. I still had to clean my room even if it was full of toys and games my friends envied.

After my parents died, I'd learned all too quickly that I wasn't like all the other kids. My new guardian insisted that I lived in a way 'befitting of my station'. Which basically seemed to mean letting people bow and scrape over me. I couldn't understand it. Apparently my parents had been quite wealthy and as their only child...

"Good morning, young master," the man greeted me as he opened the car door. I nodded once. 'Don't address the servants unless it's to give an order' was one of my guardian's many rules. Why having dead parents suddenly meant I needed servants was beyond me. All this money I'd inherited had once been theirs right? They'd never had a chauffeur or a private chef or a gardener or maids or young men in crisp suits snapping open umbrellas for them. I used to go to a normal school, wear normal clothes, eat normal food, be a normal seven-year-old boy... I used to have a mother and father who loved me.

I felt a wave of longing for them but once again forced the emotion down. I'd already been lectured on how I was to behave today. Crying was not an option. Escorted up the stone steps we stepped through the door to be greeted by a sea of sombre faces. Kids. Mostly around my age, some younger, some older, maybe ten or twelve in total. All dressed not too dissimilar to me. Smart black suits for the boys and plain black dresses for the girls. Mourning clothes.

A woman stepped forward and grasped my guardian's hand, "Thank you for coming sir. Now children."

On cue they executed a series of bows, "Welcome Brain-sama, Jellal-sama. Thank you for letting us use your home."

I couldn't help flinching. Jellal-sama. The title was so unnatural and it wasn't like I'd consciously let them take over our ancestral family home. I'd been dragged away from here on the day of the accident and not allowed to come back. I hadn't even known anyone was living here until this morning. The reality of being back home was beginning to hit me. A combination of homesickness and bittersweet memories swept through me. Brain's hand landed on my shoulder, exerting a sharp pressure and I remembered how I was meant to respond, "You're most welcome." The adults beamed like I'd said something really clever and began herding us along the corridor to the sitting room. Once there I was in for an unpleasant surprise. The room was almost unrecognisable. The leather sofa, my father's oversized arm-chair, the fluffy rug that used to tickle my feet, it was all gone. Instead the room was filled with neat rows of wooden chairs, a plastic table laden with a bowl of fruit punch and various snacks occupied one corner and dotted around in groups of twos and threes were the photos.

I barely registered that whilst the other kids filled up the first two rows of chairs I was guided to the only comfortable piece of furniture in the room. They had my parents photo. Right there, in black and white, above the fireplace. My heart twisted. It was the same photo they'd used at the funeral.

"The others will be arriving soon for the service. Please let me express our gratitude for the generosity of the Fernandez family..." The conversation swirled around me, snatches of it coming to me in fits and starts.

"Good for the children to get together..."

"...poor orphans..."

"Shame we couldn't find homes for all of them but having them all housed here is a blessing..."

"...so grateful..."

"Better than an orphanage..."

A woman came over and stuck a sticky label with my name on it across the left side of my chest. Looking across the room I read the names I could see. Angel. Sho. Wally. Millianna. The names all blurred into a meaningless mess. I didn't know any of these kids and they didn't know me but here they were. Living in my house, playing with my toys, reading my parents books... Or were they? I took a look again at the completely changed room, a sinking feeling coming over me. I slipped off the sofa, "May I be excused?" Brain nodded and I walked out the room but the moment I cleared the doorway I was running.

I jerked open the dining room door. A new table and chairs, laid for way more than three. Nothing I recognised. I tried again and again, slamming each door with increasing frustration. Upstairs, in all the bedrooms, including my own, there was nothing but row after row of standard issue bunk beds. Bathrooms full of unfamiliar toothbrushes. Even the closet didn't contain the boxes I expected to see. Back downstairs, I stood outside the door I had purposefully skipped, chest heaving, hoping against hope that at least this remained untouched. At least this. I closed my eyes and eased the door open. The familiar scent of books was still there. I opened my eyes with relief. What I saw was a slap in the face.

This used to be the study. A room surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling bookcases. A window seat where my mother would read to me. An oak desk where my father would write letters. So many lazy days we'd spent here as a family. It'd always been my favourite room. Our favourite room.

The bookshelves had been removed, slight marks on the wall all that remained to indicate that anything had ever been there. The window seat was crammed with all sorts of junk. Literally piled high with clothes and pillows and fabric that I recognised as the old curtains. The desk, like all of the other furniture in the house, was conspicuously missing. And the books, gone. Just gone. I swallowed down a gasp and walked to the middle of the room to the only thing in an otherwise barren room. A wobbly stack of boxes labelled as 'For Sale'. I lifted the cardboard flap. Keats and Jane Austen wedged in with the more contemporary authors. Science textbooks lumped in with cookbooks. Indiscriminately boxed up to be sold. Then there was the box set to one side labelled 'Trash'. I was wound up, tight as a spring, but I wanted to know what the adults had decided was worthless.

Our photo albums. From my parent's wedding photos right through to the candid snaps my father had taken of us in the garden the weekend before the accident.

Something in me snapped.

I got in three solid hits before Brain caught my flailing arms and levered me out of the sitting room. There wasn't much he could do about my legs so I kept kicking him and screaming, even as the adults and other kids stared at me like I'd gone mad. Maybe I had. They'd taken my parents from me, everything familiar about my house and now even the photographic memories would be lost. It was too much for me to deal with.

Brain hauled me through the kitchen and down the three steps into the pantry. He flung open the thick door of the tower and threw me roughly to the floor. The grey flagstones rushed up to meet me and I didn't have a chance to break my fall. Stars exploded behind my eyes as I hit the floor and there was a surge of pain. He yelled something but I wasn't listening. I curled up on the floor and let the pain take me. Hot tears ran down my cheeks. I wanted my mother. I missed my father. I wished they'd taken me with them.

The crying wore me out but the flagstones were cold and unforgiving, not the best choice for a bed. Eventually I sat up, the world tilting when I tried to open my eyes. My cheek stung and a spot on my left temple was tender to the touch. I'd behaved badly and felt certain that this would not be my only punishment. Brain was not known for his kindness or understanding. I sighed and forced my eyes open.

One brown eye stared back at me.

I jumped, flinching away from the stranger.

"You're that boy."

I didn't know if I was or not but lost for words I could only nod. The girl was sitting back on her heels, arms crossed over her knees with her chin propped on top. She didn't seem aware that sitting that way in her black dress meant she was flashing her white underwear to me. In any case, I didn't really care about that, but her face... "What happened?" I blurted out, realising a second too late that it was exactly the type of question my mother would have told me was rude.

"Oh this?" she asked placing one hand over the square patch that covered her right eye. "The accident."

The accident. Not an accident. The accident. There was only one accident that everyone in this house would speak of that needed no further explanation. "You... you were there?" I'd seen the pictures. The adults tried to shelter me from them but I'd seen the wreckage on the television anyway. The twisted hunks of metal, luggage strewn all over the tracks, fire fighters trying to contain the blaze.

The girl shrugged, "They say so."

Okay, this girl was weird. "Either you were on the train or you weren't. Don't you know?"

"No. Why are you crying?"

I dragged my sleeve over my eyes, embarrassed. "I was not crying!"

Her hand stroked over the eye patch, "I gave up crying. It doesn't change anything."

There was a moment of silence. Her words were similar to what Brain had said to me before but there was no unkindness in her voice, just acceptance of what was. "Don't you miss them?"


"Your parents," it was an assumption on my part but a good one. If you were here at this memorial then your parents were almost certainly dead.

She blinked at me, her solitary eye sombre, and I wondered for a second what her other eye looked like under its patch. Was there even anything there? "I don't know. I guess, in a vague way."

What? I missed my parents every day. I was about to say something snarky and more than a bit rude about her attitude when she reached out and laid her hand gently against my cheek. Her palm was cool, soothing, and my bitter words converted into a question. "What's your name?"


"I'm Jellal."

"I know. We all know. This is your house. We're supposed to call you Jellal-sama."

I winced again, "I'm just Jellal and there is nothing in this house that I recognize anymore. It's more your home than mine now." The truth of the words weighed heavy on me and I shut my eyes against the sadness. I wasn't going to cry in front of this girl a second time.

Erza's hand stroked along my cheek. She didn't say anything stupid like 'It'll be okay' or any of the other lies the adults tried to fill my head with. She sat with me quietly and eventually the feeling passed. "Shouldn't you be at the memorial service?" I asked when I'd recovered my voice.

Erza shrugged, "Yeah, but there's no point. My parents photos aren't there."


She pressed a finger to my lips, cutting off my question. "Shh! Someone's coming." Sure enough, when I listened, I could hear footsteps coming our way. "Erza?" a woman's voice called and she leapt to her feet. "Come on," Erza grabbed my hand and we started climbing up the winding staircase of the tower.

"Why are we going up the stairs? This is a dead-end." It wouldn't have been my choice for an escape route but Erza pulled me upwards, determined on her goal.

"They won't bother us up here. The adults are too lazy to climb all the stairs."

The quick succession of tight turns made me dizzy but Erza didn't let go of my hand and we hit the final step together. I was out of breath and bent over with my hands on my knees. Erza collapsed on the floor in the centre of the circular room, her chest heaving from the mad rush up the tower. I watched her make a mock snow angel on a thick rug. The fluffy brown rug that used to be in the sitting room. I dropped to my knees next to her, fisting my hands into the shaggy rug. "What is this doing up here?" I was relieved to see something in this house that I still recognised.

"I... borrowed it." Erza shrugged, "They were going to throw it away and I didn't think anyone would miss it. So I brought it up here to liven up the Tower of Heaven."

I gave her a quizzical look, "The Tower of Heaven?"

"Yeah," her arm swept in a large circle that encompassed the room, "that's what we named it because of the stars." She sat up abruptly, blushing. "Sorry. I forgot this is your house. The tower probably has a proper name."

"No. We never really called it anything." She nodded and flopped back down on the rug. I hesitated for a heartbeat then joined her. "You like the stars?"

"Yeah. They're really pretty."

I gazed up at the decorated ceiling, one more thing that hadn't changed. "My dad," I had to pause and swallow the lump that formed in my throat, "my dad and I painted that."


"Yeah. My school went on a field trip last year to the planetarium. The big one in the city. I loved it. I begged him again and again to take me back but it's such a long drive. My dad was always really busy with his job and all the charity dinners and things he had to go to. It's not like we could stop by whenever we wanted to. So whenever he had a spare moment we'd come up here. He got this book for me and we looked up all the different constellations. We painted the whole ceiling black one weekend then we used stencils to lay it all out right, one star at a time. That bit took a few months." I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye but Erza didn't say anything. "Do you see that one there, towards the middle and then to the left-"

"No, which one? That one?" She pointed.

"Here," I wrapped my hand over hers, "Like this." I guided our hands through the air, tracing out a connection between the artificial stars above us. "Imagine lines here, and here..."

"A person?"

"Orion, the hunter. See these three stars in a dead straight line are called Orion's belt. The legend says... You probably think this is boring right?" I let go, suddenly struck with embarrassment at holding this strange girl's hand. I don't know why but she was so comfortable to be around that I found myself talking like we'd always known each other. I'd more than likely bore her to death if I didn't shut up.

"It's interesting. I never knew the stars made pictures in the sky. Tell me more, Jellal." I hesitated and she took my hand, placing it back over hers, "Show me. Please."

So I did. Outside the wind howled around the tower and the rain lashed at the windows while I lay on the floor with this strange new girl, showing her the stars. I don't know how long we were there, talking, but the weight of the day slipped from my shoulders. Erza was easy to talk to, didn't ask stupid questions or make fun of my interests and by the time I'd made it through all of the zodiac constellations we were fast friends.

"You're so clever, Jellal. You know, like, everything."

I rubbed the bridge of my nose, secretly happy at her words. "Not everything. Scientists find new stars, whole galaxies of them, all the time so I don't think anyone knows everything about them."

"Still," she said rolling over onto her side to look down at me, "You know a whole lot."

"I guess." Her face was a little too close to mine and I couldn't help staring at her eye patch. She bit her lip and I knew she'd noticed.

"It's ugly, isn't it?"

"What? No." I said it a little too quickly for the denial to be believable. It wasn't like she was hideous or anything. In truth, the more time I spent with Erza, the prettier I thought she was but it was so obvious. My mind couldn't help returning to the macabre thought of what may lay beneath that thick white square.

"It's okay. Everyone thinks so but there's no money to get it fixed. I'm use to it now and the way people stare."

"I have money." The words slipped out easily and in that instant a brilliant idea came to me. "I've got loads of money. I'll get Brain to pay for a doctor to fix it for you." The notion grabbed me and stirred me to my feet. "We can ask him now."

Erza stayed stretched out on the floor. She looked doubtful. I gestured around the room, "I own a castle. Or close enough. I think I have enough money to pay for a new eye." I spoke with confidence even though I had no idea how much it might cost. My parents had always been big on charity events and giving money away. My parents. "Oh my god. The memorial service." I took off running down the steps. I'd been so caught up in spending time with Erza that I'd completely lost track of time. I heard her call after me but I didn't wait for her.

The stone steps rushed by in a blur and I flung myself around the final bend only to find myself yet again in a heap on the stone floor. I was not alone this time either. I disentangled myself from the tiny girl I'd collided with. "Sorry! Are you okay?"

She brushed the dust off her dress, "I'm okay. Why are you running?"

"I don't want to miss the service. Come on," I grabbed her hand to take her with me but she leaned back, resisting my tugging motion.

"Miss it? It's over. I want Erza. Have you seen her?"

My heart sunk, "It's over?"

"Yeah. It was okay. Sad. I miss my parents more now than before," she tilted her head and studied me. "Jellal-sama. This is your house."

"Yes. No. Please just call me Jellal. Is the service really over?"

She nodded and all the emotions I'd forgotten about while I was with Erza came rushing back. I'd never wanted to come to this service, had dragged my feet all morning, but now that I'd missed it I felt guilty. Erza arrived at the bottom of the steps and the new girl immediately hugged her.

"Are you okay Millianna?" In answer the younger girl started crying. "Hush now. I've got you," Erza said, rocking gently. It was such a motherly gesture I felt all the more that I should have attended the memorial service. Something of what I felt must have shown on my face because Erza shuffled over, edging Millianna backwards until they both bumped into me. Erza reached out and pulled me into the hug. I didn't think about it, I hugged them back, my fingertips barely resting on the rough fabric of the back Erza's black dress. Sandwiched between us, Millianna's sobs became softer and softer until she said with a sniffle, "This is nice, warm. Are you going to stay here Jellal-sama? I mean, Jellal."

"I... I can't." I wished I could. The kids at my new boarding school were, different, to put it nicely. We didn't get along so well. All the rules seemed stupid to me, the favouritism of the teachers was hard to understand and everyone was so snobby. I hated it. I hated weekends with Brain even more. I was always doing something wrong, picking the wrong fork for the wrong course at dinner, wearing shoes that squeaked on the polished floors, crying too loudly for my parents. Between school and 'home' the last six months had been horrible. Yet here, with complete strangers, I'd spent most of the day if not happy then at least not constantly thinking of how life used to be. More than anything else I knew they got it. No words were needed. We'd all been through the same horrible thing. Maybe the adults idea to force us all together wasn't so stupid after all.

"I'm sorry you missed the service Jellal. It was my fault," Erza said softly. She raised a hand to smooth down Millianna's hair and I reluctantly released them.

"Why not?" demanded Millianna at the same time. "We can play house. I'll let you wear my cat ears."

From the significant emphasis in her voice, I guessed that was the best bribe she could come up with. It was surprising how quickly she'd taken to me. I'd tried for months to fit in at my new school and somehow I'd stumbled across two friends on what should have been one of the bleakest days. "It wasn't your fault Erza. We both lost track of time. Maybe I'll be able to visit you some other time."

"Erza, make him stay! I like him," Millianna gave me a gap toothed smile.

"I like him too."

My ears grew warm. Erza was even prettier when she smiled. I changed the subject, "I want to take my family photo albums home but I know Brain won't let me. Could you hide them for me?" It was the least I could do to try and remember my parents.

Erza nodded, "We'll put them in the tower. Where are they?"

I led the way back to the study. It took both of us, each holding one side of the box with Millianna more in the way than actually helping, but we managed to carry the box up the tower. With the box on the floor Millianna immediately started rifling through the albums.

"Don't do that. Those are private," Erza reprimanded her.

"It's alright. I don't mind," I said. Of course when the girls started giggling over my chubby baby photos I minded a bit more but I humoured them. In some ways it felt like them flipping casually through these photos so full of life and colour while I related some of the stories that went with them, was a much better memorial than the sombre, black and white, affair downstairs had been. "Where are all your photos and stuff?" The brief look I'd taken into the bedrooms had given the impression of bare, impersonal spaces.

"The basement. It's scary so we never go down there," Millianna replied. Erza said nothing. In fact, Millianna spoke often of her parents and her life before the accident while Erza didn't. I hadn't forgotten her strange answers from earlier and my curiosity was getting the best of my good manners.

"Why don't you talk about your parents? How can you not remember them?"

A strange look fluttered across Erza's face and she looked away from me, "I just can't."

"But why?" I insisted. "You can't forget them like that. That's mean."

"I can't remember okay. Just shut up."


Erza leapt to her feet, "I said shut up! I can't remember anything and it doesn't matter if I did, they don't want me anyway!"

In the silence that followed I didn't know what to say. Erza's hands were balled into fists at her sides and I could see her trembling. How could her parents not want her? "I don't understand."

She sucked in a sharp breath, "I woke up in the hospital three days after the accident. I couldn't remember anything. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not my house. Not even the accident. Nothing but my name and not even all of that. Erza. Just Erza. The doctors say I have am... amn... amn-something! I don't remember things. I couldn't do anything but lie in that stupid hospital bed and wait. I waited for someone to come and get me. Someone, anyone, to say 'she's my child'. But no one did. So they told me that my parents probably died in the accident but they don't really know. Which makes two of us because I don't know who I am or who I'm supposed to miss or even if they're out there somewhere and just don't want to come get me. It was a school day. I shouldn't have even been on that train! But no school has any record of me. What kind of parents don't even send their kid to school?"

Erza tried to say more but I couldn't understand her through the gasping sobs she was making. I had no idea how to undo the stupid thing I'd said. Of course no one would willingly forget their parents, that was a dumb thing for me to think, but I found it harder to believe that, if they were still alive, they wouldn't come and get her. "That's not true."

"It is!"

"No, it is not. They died that day just like all of our parents." It was without a doubt the cruellest kind thing I could ever say. "If they were still alive, they'd never stop looking until they found you. Never." It was what parents did. Mine lost me once when we went out shopping. I'd never forget the look on their faces when they found me in a toy store, blissfully unaware of their distress. That mixture of still lingering panic, the rush of relief and a tinge of anger at me for wandering off. "They'd go to the ends of the world to find you. I know they would."

Erza walked to the window and stared out. True to what she'd said earlier, she didn't cry, her shoulders stiff with the effort of containing all her emotions. "Do you really think so?"

"Yes," I replied firmly. Millianna slid her tiny hand into mine and squeezed. "I love Erza," she said softly.

I took a wild shot in the dark and hoped I was right, "Everyone does. You all live here like a family right?" Neither of them contradicted me so I pressed the point, "You might not remember your parents but you've got a new family now and they don't want you to think that way."

"A new family," she repeated slowly, "I'm still just Erza though."

"Well that's easy to fix."

Erza threw me a sceptical look over her shoulder, "Oh really?"

"Mmm. You can have my last name. Erza Fernandez."

Erza's lips twitched and at my side Millianna started giggling. "What? You don't like it?"

"Not exactly but... it's like we got married!"

Both girls burst into laughter and I felt my face flood with heat. "Is not!"

"Is too!"

"Is not!"

"Is too!"

"I don't hear any better ideas coming from either of you! I'm trying to help." Offended, I crossed my arms and glared at them.

Erza swallowed her laughter, "I'm sorry, Jellal. It's very kind of you to offer your last name. Lots of people have suggested names but," she shrugged, "they don't feel right."

"I'm not 'lots of people'. I'll think of one." It was a matter of pride now. I tried out a few of my old friends last names but none of them matched with the name Erza. This might be harder than I'd originally thought. I relaxed back onto the rug to think and Millianna wedged herself firmly against my side to keep looking through the photos. Erza stayed by the window. Any more 'happy family' photos were probably too painful for her to be looking at right now. I felt really bad for her. I was sure that I wasn't the first person to contradict what she believed but the negative thoughts about her parents still clung to her. If I could at least think of a last name for Erza maybe that'd be the start of healing the wound on her heart.

Across the circular room, Erza sighed and scratched at the black cap on her head, "I hate this thing. It's so itchy."

"Take it off," Millianna said without looking up.

"You know I can't. Matron will get angry if I do."

I didn't say anything. I hadn't been able to stop myself earlier from blurting out that rude question about her eye patch but I'd managed to avoid nosing into why she covered her head when none of the other girls bothered. Now that I knew a little of her story I figured maybe she'd lost all her hair in the accident or something. Erza's life seemed really rough compared to mine. We'd both lost our parents but she'd had it so much harder. I at least had their memory.

"Matron," said Millianna with the simplicity that only a five year old could manage, "is not here."

Two things happened then that would irreversibly bind me to Erza forever. First, she pulled the cap off. Second, a particularly strong gust of wind forced the old-fashioned latch on the window Erza was standing by to pop open. Years later I'd think it was fate...

Erza let out a surprised gasp and Millianna squealed as wind howled around the room. The pages in the photo albums went flickering over and over, fast as lightning, forming a blur of faces and places. Rain poured in the open window as Erza leaned out, trying to close it. I rushed over to help her and together we managed to pull it shut but not before we both got drenched by the storm. Erza was laughing and I could definitely see the funny side of things but the vision of her standing there made the laughter catch in my throat.

Her dress was dripping water onto the stone floor, adding to the already substantial puddle at our feet. I watched Erza cross her arms and hug herself against the sudden dampness. I barely registered the creeping cold. Her hair hung in wet strands around her face, some of it plastered to her flushed cheeks.

It was the most amazing colour I'd ever seen.

I blurted out, "You're so pretty."

She blushed, her hand subconsciously creeping to her hairline, "I'm not."

"Why..." I was still struggling to come to terms with this new revelation, "why would you cover something so beautiful?"

"Matron says its vulgar because it's too bright." Embarrassed, she bent down and retrieved her cap off the wet floor. She went to put it back on but I snatched it from her hand. How could she even think of wearing that stupid thing. On impulse I reopened the window a crack and let the wind steal the cap away. The rush of cool air lifted her hair, sending it whipping around her face until I managed to tug the window shut again. "Don't cover your hair. Ever."

"It's too red."

"It's not even red."

She gave me a weird look, "Are you colour blind or something?"

Red was much too plain of a word for what she had. I searched my vocabulary for something more suitable. "I got it."


"A name for you."

Erza peeled the clammy wisps of hair off her cheeks, "Let's hear it then."

I could tell she didn't believe me but I knew this one would be perfect. I reached out and she froze as I ran my fingers gently through her hair, trying to undo the tangles created by the wind. "I'm Jellal Fernandez, it's really nice to meet you Erza. Erza Scarlet."

Waking up with Jellal was a little disorienting. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was actually awake and not simply caught up in a lovely dream. His arm was thrown over me in a loose embrace. Under the covers our legs were intertwined and I blushed with the knowledge that we were both still naked. Best of all I had a perfect, up close view of his adorable sleeping face. He was smiling in his sleep, obviously caught up in some nice dream. I reached out and lightly traced the curve of his lips, followed the elaborate swirling pattern of his birthmark, brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead. Experienced a dizzy, joy inducing thought that this beautiful man was mine. All mine. Finally. Jellal stirred, caught my hand and kissed my fingers. His brown eyes opened slowly and he murmured, "Good morning, Beautiful."

"Morning," my heart skipped a beat and I felt my face flush. How could this possibly be real?

Waking up with Erza was pure bliss. She looked so natural, her beautiful scarlet hair all mused, no makeup, faintly blushing. Giving me that look that told me everything I needed to know - she loved me. I let my hand trail along her back. Crazy how that little girl I once knew was now a woman, and in bed with me no less.

"Feel okay?" She nodded back and blushed harder, remembering last night.

"Sorry, for hurting you." She shook her head.

"Have I stunned you into silence or something?" I asked, amused.

"No. I just... Can't believe this is real."

I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her closer. "Neither can I."

We lay there in the early morning quiet before Jellal said with a half laugh, "I dreamed of you last night. About the first time we met."

"At school?"

"No, the very first time at my old house." He gave me a bemused look, "You laughed at having my last name. Tore my young heart to pieces right then."

My face flooded with a new wave of heat, "I was seven!"

"No excuses. I was devastated. Don't think I ever really recovered. I might have a complex because of you."

Was he teasing me? I couldn't tell. "I'm sorry Jellal. I'd take it now," I offered.

"You... you would?" My heart stuttered almost to a complete stop. Did she really mean that?

"Yeah. Erza Fernandez has a nice ring to it..." Her voice trailed off. "I don't mean like... I'm not saying... Don't take that the wrong way!"

She burrowed closer to me, her forehead pressed against my chest so I couldn't see her face. I held her tightly. "It does have a nice ring to it," was all I said. It was way too soon for us to be having a conversation like that even if it was a foregone conclusion that one day, if I didn't fuck this thing between us up, just maybe, she'd end up with my last name after all.

"I missed you. After you left that day," she said finally, her breath warm on my skin.

"I missed you too." After I left it'd been four long months before we saw each other again and that had been completely by chance. I'd been expelled from my fancy boarding school for fighting. Brain of course didn't want me hanging about and shipped me off to Magnolia. It was a much nicer school, nicer dorms, with kind people who understood that I wasn't a bad kid, I'd just hit that stage in the grieving process where I hated the world and everyone it for being alive when my parents weren't. Until one day a new student with an instantly recognisable shade of red hair walked into my homeroom. "You got me in detention the second time we met."

"Uh if I remember correctly, you're the one who jumped up so fast that your chair clattered to the floor and then proceed to hug me so hard I couldn't breathe. You threw the whole class into an uproar."

"Your fault."

I pulled away just enough to give Jellal a fake frown, "How is that my fault?"

He kissed my nose, "For being so beautiful that I couldn't stay away from you. Still can't."

Every time I thought my blush was fading away he said something else that had all the colour rushing back into my cheeks. I'd been a bit of a handful after Jellal left. I kept running away, trying to find him, until Matron got fed up and sent me to Magnolia. Best thing ever. Jellal and I had been inseparable ever since. I changed the subject, "Whatever happened to Brain?"

"I think he's still in prison. I mean, he stole every penny of my inheritance that wasn't locked away and even took money from the funds donated to the other orphans. A real nasty piece of work. It worked out though. I mean we've got each other and we have so many great friends that live here."

"Sometimes I wonder what happened to the others."

"Hmm. It's a shame we didn't all keep in touch."

We lapsed into a comfortable silence again and it dawned on me how weird this was. I'd lost my virginity to him literally last night and this morning could have been so awkward but we'd fallen naturally into our 'best friends forever' mode where nothing, not matter what it was, could ever be weird between us. "Hey Jell, do you love me?"

"Of course I do. You know I love you baby. More than anyone."

Somehow the words didn't seem like enough and I wasn't really sure where that sudden question had come from. I thought last night had made it obvious how crazy I was about Erza. There was nothing else for me to give her and nothing more that I could take. We owned each other, body and soul. Surely that had to be enough. Unless... "Erza, last night..." Maybe I'd hurt her more than she'd let on to. "I didn't mean to hurt you and that doesn't mean I don't love you. I wanted you so much, I got carried away. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I really love you. You have to know that."

"Whoa, hey, where's all this coming from? Last night was amazing. You didn't hurt me. I know you love me, I just wanted to hear you say it."

I shook my head, "I did hurt you and I'll say it as often as you want me to. I love you, Erza. I'm sorry that I don't always show it."

"Hush. Don't be silly. If you showed me any more love my heart would explode from all of it. Now don't apologise to me again or I'll have no choice but to hit you."

I made the wise choice and held my tongue. It'd be a long time yet before I managed to feel like I didn't owe her at least a thousand more apologies. "You saved my parents books for me."

The abrupt change in topic threw me but I only shrugged, "It was obvious how much they meant to you."

"I never really thought of it but you must have gotten into trouble when they went missing."

"Oh a little." I always played it down. He didn't really need to know about the two days I'd spent locked in the tower and, after all these years, now was a really bad time to mention it. Ironic since the very place they chose for my punishment was the same spot where the books were hidden. The conversation triggered off a whole set of memories for me, mostly happy, some not so much.

"You know," Jellal said and it was like he'd read my mind, "once you turn eighteen we can try and find your parents records."

It wasn't like I hadn't thought of it before but I shook my head right away. I'd closed that chapter of my life years ago. "I have all the family I want."

I released a breath I hadn't known I was holding. "Erza, are you happy? With me?"

"Give me your hand a second," she said after a pause and I willingly intertwined my fingers with hers. Everything about us just fit so right. Erza pressed the back of my hand to her breast. I felt an instant thrill of excitement. I'd already been conscious of her naked body so close to mine but I let the thoughts that appeared die. Even if she denied it, I knew she would be sore from yesterday.

"Do you feel that?" she asked in a soft voice. I closed my eyes and stayed quiet until I could pick up the faint beat of her heart under my hand.

"My heart beats for you Jellal. Only you. Never doubt that. Never doubt us."

I kissed her, wishing we could stay trapped in this moment forever but knowing it couldn't be so. We'd probably love a lot and fight a little, have both good times and bad in our relationship, even though it felt like we had our lifetimes worth of lows in the last few months hopefully that meant we had plenty of highs to make up for it. Right now though..."You didn't answer me. Are you happy? Right now, with me?"

Erza gave me one of her classic smiles, "After everything we've been through, I love you and you love me, how could we be anything but happy?"